Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Youth, Again

Yesterday a friend showed me the Amnesty International ad I have posted and, I was unable to live with myself for hours after seeing it. Apart from the fact that its an unusual and most powerful piece of communication it hit me that in this whole rigmarole of making a life for myself I had forgotten how to live…

I did my graduation from Delhi, from a place called LSR (Lady Shri Ram College for Women). People who are familiar with this name know that it’s a hotbed of elite political activism and social consciousness. And, that sounds appropriately LSRish…

No, kidding aside, LSR was a learning experience in how to learn political theory and take stands on issues of national and international politics and culture without getting your hands dirty. The intention was always genuine, the maneuvers elite. We wanted to help the world by being more aware, more conscious and hence more empowered. The fact that we were women who thought so in an organized, concerted manner made us the initiators of feminism in the university and often the butt of many sexist jokes.

I majored in Political Science. It feels so good just writing that.

There were a host of brilliant teachers on the subject and LSR was known for its radical Political Sc. Faculty. So we had a tradition of radical thought to live upto and we appropriated tradition with open arms.

I remember the first day in class distinctly. I remember being asked who built the Taj Mahal and replying Shah Jahan. I remember the look on the lecturer’s face, one which reeked of self satisfaction at getting the answer she desired and expected.
I remember her playing around with her very fab india sari, looking up at me and saying, “No millions of laborers built the Taj Mahal.”
Boy was I bewitched!!

That became the pattern of things and years to come.

LSR had a distinct red thread running through its vein.
So we used to sit at the CafĂ© or the Gazebo (we didn’t call it the canteen or the corridor) and talk about Marx and Machiavelli and the various ways in which they could be interpreted (by the way these two were my heroes back then). Oblivious to the politics raging outside our campus.
We were not like other politically active students from other colleges who dabbled in student unions and mass elections and populist slogans. No, we were not affiliated to a political party but we knew our political theory. We could hold our own in any debate and possibly solve world problems through mere application on paper.

Hey am not being critical of the way we were. I think it was great to be so aware and yet display a sense of perspective which did not reek of self absorption. And, because all of us were like that, it had become the way to be. So we were safely seconded in bourgeoisie reality and still, were able to grapple with proletarian world issues. Very real-time if u ask me, and look at the history of communism in general. The philosophy suffered because the ultimate wish of every proletarian became to evolve into a bourgeoisie.

By the third year of graduation, Marx’s magic was waning and we all became Gandhians. I always was very non violent in my approach and Gandhi suited me superbly. I discovered Gandhi and I still value him over others. There was a slum right behind LSR and I with afew others adopted it and started teaching the women of the basti. I was not as western in my looks and demeanor as I was in my thoughts and the women found it easy to relate to me. I discovered I could talk people out of their angst. I also discovered that that was not the end of their problems.

I became a prominent member of the street theatre group. And, we used to take the bus to various places in West and North Delhi, do our “nautanki” as the audience used to call it then and amble back into our cozy existence. But I was happy. I was doing something I was good at and which, hopefully, had some value.

So today when I saw the ad, it hit me that the last time I had read about Amnesty in detail and not just as a passing reference was some 13 years back. I logged onto to wikipedia and found myself and my age for some time again. Wikipedia describes Amnesty as a pressure group. A pressure Group…. We used to have so many discussions on pressure groups and the nature of such groups. Street theatre by itself was an attempt to create a momentary pressure group. It made me go back into time, something I rarely have the time to do. And, it was more than a nostalgic journey…

Today I sit here with a resolve to get back to my aware if not socio politically active self.
I called up various developmental centers yesterday seeking out relevant info.
I want to help distressed teenagers. People find it easy to relate to me and I want to use this for a bigger purpose. So if anyone knows of any NGO, organization that can use my skills, I would love it if you’d help me out.
I promise to kill the cynicism that has crept in me and sign every plea that comes my way in the hope that it will save, restore some lives.
I want to bridge the gap between my youth and now by doing something that enriches me….

5 comments:

Simpu said...

The Ad was really great. I do know of few NGOs. Will discuss it with u. In fact had been assocaityed with one for pretty long with one in Mumbai and interacting with a few others here.

I know hw it feels - the rush of blood - it gives to me...could pretty much read it through your lines.....

Good luck

Smiling Dolphin said...

good on you, svety. make it last.

shaswati said...

Definitely it took me back to my college days when I used to be part of many "pressure groups"! Thanks for the nudge...

Abhigyan said...

Was never aware of your teaching and theatre existence. And you yourself, all it takes to get out of the slumber is spend some money on petrol, and do it. I can figure out the slum teaching bit (if you still upto it), there is some NGO in Shaadipur which has a huge setuo around it.
Me no Gandhian, but I agree with one of his lasting quotes - be the change you want to see in the world. All of us tend to be arm-chairish in that regard.

Milan said...

wow....i din't know u were into this stuff as well....i think we need to talk a little bit more..:))...